Is This the End of the Automobile Era in Massachusetts?

massachusetts carsHighway photo via Shutterstock

The Age of the Automobile in Massachusetts was dealt a very serious blow earlier this week. Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, who apparently doesn’t even own a car, unfolded a state plan to triple the amount of people who bike, walk, or take public transportation. The plan—even though it’s still unclear what tripling that number means—makes Massachusetts the only state in the country with a stated goal like this one.

Here’s how the Globe’s Peter Schworm, who attended the press conference in Springfield, summed it up:

Transportation officials call the objective a “mode shift” and say no other state has set a specific goal to increase the share of noncar travel. Officials did not have an estimate of how much the initiative would cost, but said they would seek funding to improve the transit system and make the roads more friendly to ­cyclists.

Sounds like Davey has seen the future, and the future has fewer cars, fewer emissions, and better public health. According to a report by Bloomberg earlier this summer, young people aren’t buying as many cars as they used to. It seems like the jig is up on the car being a symbol of freedom, which, anyone who’s spend time in the kind of rush hour traffic that Davey hopes to reduce will tell you is true.

The press conference was apparently light on details as press conferences tend to be, but the shift in priorities is clear. When’s the last time you heard a politician in Massachusetts say something like, “We really want to encourage people to drive more. Preferably by themselves. So we’re going to widen the highways and build additional infrastructure to facilitate this forward-thinking method of transit.”

The last guy who said that was probably Eisenhower when he built the interstate highway system. It was infrastructure that was meant to increase commerce, which it did, but it promised something else: exploration, freedom, and the ability to self-determine. For a while, it did those things, too. But when future generations begin their search for those same things, they won’t need cars to find it.